Thursday, August 11, 2011

We need to talk

I'm not 100 percent moved in - the tough stuff to unpack is still in boxes on the floor - but I'm trying to plunge right in to my new life. I'm working, of course, and I've been going to yoga (more on that in a later post). I've also been going to capoeira.

Our group back in Nashville was rather small, so I got rather used to playing with the same few people. Sure, new people showed up occasionally, or we saw out-of-town friends once or twice a year at events, but in the general run of things, I knew what to anticipate from my friends in the roda. I had a sense of people's style, of who would be aggressive, of who would kick my ass (which is not the same as who could).

But most of the people I have played with here are new to me. Playing with strangers, even in your own school, is more challenging, since you never know what they're going to do. However, some people are more challenging than others.

The hardest, actually, are those who are brand-new. Not new like I am, but in their first month or two: They have little idea what they're doing and are thus almost dangerously unpredictable. Even if they're timid instead of aggressive, it is difficult to have a conversation with them in the roda. Someone who is really advanced, like a mestre, is easier in some ways; not that they won't utterly defeat you, but they are more likely to leave you feeling humiliated than injured. It often ends up being a conversation where you keep saying, "What? What?" over and over again as they repeat themselves with increasing impatience.

In the middle ground, though, I've noticed that some people are a lot easier to play with than others, and it's not necessarily about skill level. Some people are more attuned to the nature of capoeira as a dance or conversation; others seem to be out there to score points. Ironically, if they want to play it that way, it can be easier to "get" them in return - they're so focused on what they're doing that they can get blindsided. Or when we have small rodas after class, some students are much better at practicing the moves and sequences we just went over. You keep giving someone the opening move of a sequence your teacher asked to see, and they keep ignoring it.

But of course, it's important to play with everyone. You have to learn to deal with capoeristas who are unpredictable or hard to read, not just your friends who you screw around with all the time or even your teachers, who slowly but steadily challenge you. So it's a good thing for me to train with strangers, even if I miss my peeps back in Nashville.

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